Police officers not only ones hurt by township council decision

First published:
July 14, 2004

The callous indifference of our municipal politicians toward the Cobourg police force must end. The quarrelling, political manipulation and feuding is gone beyond any reason and will only result in further demoralization of the front-line officers, civilian staff and taxpayers.

The politicians wish only to create a crisis forcing the formation of a regional police service despite the persistent resistance by Port Hope. The egos and blind ambitions of those involved to seek power over each other is driving this agenda, nothing more. Officers and taxpayers are the causalities.

The decision, announced last week, by Hamilton Township council to express its intent to not renew its agreement with the Cobourg Police Force is damaging beyond description, despite everyone’s efforts to portray it to the contrary.

And as Hamilton Township councillors line up to heap praise on the police officers for the fine job, the agenda is clear: Cobourg police will no longer provide service. Even if the financial dispute between it and the police services board is resolved, it will not matter.

Hamilton Township doesn’t want to pay $114,000 for unforeseen costs it is being charged over the past two years. Cobourg taxpayers are picking up the bill.

Now you would think this would outrage Cobourg Mayor Peter Delanty and the rest of council to a point where they would seek a resolution either through the police board or on its own.

In fact, nobody has done a thing, including the two town representatives on the board. Instead of making a call or going up to Hamilton Township, sitting down and resolving this, council has done squat.

Deputy Mayor Bob Spooner, who is responsible for finances, says nothing could be done between the time Hamilton Township announced it wanted to leave and last week, when it make the decision official. The board does not have a chairman, he said. Former Chairman Alan Robinson’s term has ended. The new chairman will be selected on July 22. He would not act independently.

Councillor Lloyd Williams is lowballing the entire thing saying it will not matter since so much of policing is up in the air. Hamilton Township wants an OPP costing and Northumberland County council is looking at a regional police model. He points to other municipalities across Ontario who are in similar predicaments.

Their minds were made up, he said in an interview, without even a phone call to his colleagues to our north to find out.

Certainly, Cobourg councillors could argue it is up to the police service board to resolve this. But with Cobourg taxpayers picking up the tab, the mayor should be meeting with his counterpart to resolve this. Negotiations should have taken place to end all the bickering and hard feelings. To leave everything in the air does not make sense.

Unless, there is another agenda at work. Maybe nobody wants the Cobourg police force around any more, including Cobourg council. Instead, everyone is looking to create a regional police force.

Hamilton Township Mayor Forrest Rowden is in favour of a regional Force, as a means to reduce costs and provide his council with more power with decision-making.

Spooner says Cobourg council wants a regional force, too. Chief Gary Clement is doing everything he can. His most recent effort was to try to sign an agreement directly with Port Hope Police Chief Ron Hoath, in an effort to do an end-run around the politicians.

The Port Hope Police Services Board is so vehemently opposed to sharing services with Cobourg it scrapped the deal last week.

“There is no agreement,” Port Hope Police Board chair Jeff Lees said this week. The town councillor is also totally opposed to a regional police force. And the board is not behind it either, he added.

He also said a regional force would be based in Cobourg and Port Hope would never agree to that, especially after it lost the hospital to Cobourg.

From a political point of view, none of this is new.

The real tragedy in all this is the coldhearted disregard for the officers. Between eight to 10 officers could lose their job. The uncertainty of the current situation presents is unnecessary and unfair. How are these people suppose to live with an axe hanging over their heads for the next 18 months while Cobourg and Hamilton Township try to sort this out?

The officers would be second-guessing whether to renew a mortgage or buy a new car or make any kind of commitment to the future. No employee should be treated this way. No doubt some of them are sending out resumes.

“It is an unfortunately reality,” Williams said.

“It is really too bad,” said Spooner.

Yes, it is. But these men and women do not need lip service. They have faced enough hardship. Sure, all of politicians will say what a tragedy it was to see Constable Chris Garrett die in the line of duty, expressing condolences to the other officers. And some of them will be at the dedication of a new park, standing beside the officers. But where is the compassion to take action to resolve these impasses.

The hypocrisy is unbearable. Mayor Delanty and council must bring calm to the turmoil, not by continuing the foolhardy effort to create a regional police force because Port Hope will never agree.

Since Delanty was acclaimed, he has an empty mandate. He was not forced to map out a plan on tough issues like policing last November. But maybe now he could make one that mattered.

Both sides need to end the crisis. Bring peace to our police service, now. The officers are going a good job. Everybody knows it. This is not like buying a pair of cheap socks. When there is a hole, you mend it, not throw it out.

And this is the humane thing to do for our officers and taxpayers.

And if the politicians will do nothing, then maybe the police association should use every legal means to force a solution on behalf of its members. Taxpayers might be thanking the officers for more than patrolling the streets.

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